Imagine the ultimate workshop…
A place to think, dream, tinker and play with ideas that could change the world. Imagine it packed with all the design and manufacturing technology you could desire. Imagine the ultimate location for your ‘shop’: harbour side in centre of a beautiful city, a short walk from a bustling commuter hub and market with restaurants, cafés and gourmet fresh food & produce.
You just imagined Pier 9
Part of the AutoCAD Blogger Day was a tour of Pier 9. A short walk from Autodesk’s 1 Market Street office, past the Ferry Building Marketplace, you find a converted waterfront cargo pier. These sheds, once the domain of ships and cargo trading, now house offices for lawyers (this is the U.S.A. after all), Architects and Autodesk’s innovation hub: The Pier 9 Workshop
A place to explore
Pier 9 is a place for Autodesk employees and artists, designers to explore the limits of design software and manufacturing technology. Autodesk support this by offering small stipend, software, hardware and an impressive workspace through the Artists in Residence Program. As we wandered through the various workshops the it was fascinating to see a wide variety of disciplines and industries working side by side.
A place to build
The simplest way to explain the scope of Pier 9 is as we experienced it, a tour. From the reception, with meeting rooms overlooking the harbour, you move through a variety of open plan office spaces. There is typical designers clutter of computers, sketches and (not so typical) desktop printers churning out prototype models!
From there we went into the first workshop. The CNC Machine Shop has industrial spec CNC 5 axis machining centres, lathes, routers and milling machines.
Add to that a 10’ x 5’ (say 3000 x 1500mm in real measurements) water jet cutter that can blast through 8” (150mm) of material. I watched it, somewhat mesmerised, cutting organic shape components but never thought to ask what they were going to be!
The Woodshop has industrial spec table saw which features a Sawstop Accident Prevention System designed with Autodesk Inventor. It detects when skin (or any conductive matter) touches the blade, stopping and retracting it almost instantly. I didn’t dare to test it but have seen a demo which proved it works (on a BBC science program).
Add to that table routers, drill presses, planers, bandsaws, belt/drum sanders and hand tools making this Woodshop better equipped than some Kiwi cabinet making companies I’ve worked for!
Into the Commercial Test Kitchen where there was, from memory, a range and other commercial kitchen equipment. I most remember being captivated by the view!
Then it was upstairs to the 3D Printshop which which is packed with direct manufacturing technology. There are seven, yes seven, Objet 3D resin printers, five laser cutters of various types, a 3D paper printer (contour printing with paper), Arctec 3D scanners and a wide format printer vinyl cutter.
Next was the Sewing and Project room with industrial sewing equipment and a Centroform Vacuum Former. It has a view of the Electronics Lab which I didn’t get to see in detail but looked to have the oscilloscopes, spectrum and logic analysers you see electronic techies playing with.
if you want more detail on this astounding play set check out the current Pier 9 Machine Catalog.
So it is very cool, but why?
From what I saw Pier 9 is a place to explore new frontiers. Autodesk Employees and Artists in Residence get to use their software with the latest in technology. This ‘eating your own dog food’ experimentation goes beyond the usual industry work streams. The mix of disciplines working together must also generate some interesting collaborations.
In a short tour we saw engineering projects, furniture manufacturing, additive printing a logo onto an existing product, apparel design and electronic design and production. The kitchen was empty, sadly no samples, but there was talk of making sugar and flour from insect protein. Not exactly your typical foodie recipe.
The 3D printers were making cityscape models of New York and San Francisco, for urban redevelopment planning. I was interested to see a 3D paper print (the bust below) as had only recently heard about the technology. The Mcor IRIS 3D paper printer uses copy paper as the medium printed on the cut edges. You get a paper thickness resolution contour model with reasonable colour reproduction.
Some bloggers, and Lynn Allen, had fun on the meeting table swing!
Pier 9, evidence that Autodesk is far more than just a software company?
Autodesk has always had a relationship with the industries that use its products. Pier 9 shows they are looking to enable industry professionals, artists and the rapidly growing maker movement take new processes, new technologies and combine them in new ways.
Some projects investigating mixtures of biotech, engineering and new manufacturing technologies (also showcased in the nearby Autodesk Gallery) were fascinating. Imagine growing a building, self assembling furniture or flying in aircraft printed, even grown, running on fuel harvested from bacteria…
Beyond Manufacturing, it’s happening in AEC too.
While the Pier 9 focus seems to be ‘making’, a move mid last year indicated Autodesk are taking a similar approach for AEC. They acquired David Benjamin’s Design Studio | The Living. It will concentrate on research and development projects in the fields of architecture, art, industrial design, aerospace, computer science, engineering, manufacturing and synthetic biology.
Another sign that Autodesk is rapidly evolving far beyond the traditional software business model?
Pier 9: A place for you?
The Pier 9 residency is open to anyone with a great idea and the drive to realise it. Check out the requirements and get your application in. From what I saw it looks like a mighty inspiring place to be.
Disclosure: Travel, some accommodation and meals provided by Autodesk, see disclosure page for details.
See my AutoCAD Blogger Day 2014 Index page for related posts. Proof I really am the worlds slowest blogger…